I am coming to the end of my fifth day wearing a sea sponge tampon and I am humming the theme tune to Spongebob Squarepants as I write up perhaps one of the oddest products I have ever reviewed.
Sea sponge tampons are a reusable, eco friendly alternative to regular disposable tampons and I was sent the Natural Intimacy Caribbean Silk Intimate Sponges to try by Stress No More. Made from natural sea sponge which is non-toxic and completely bio-degradable, I like to think of these as mermaid tampons. Seriously, I think this is what Ariel uses on her time of the month…
I have used a mooncup for years and so I’m already a convert to the reusable options when it comes to menstruation, but I have to say, the sea sponge was a bit weird even for me. I think it is so ingrained into us that our only options are tampons or sanitary towels (i.e. the items that are taxed and make a lot of money for the government!) that any other option is seen as alternative or hippyish.
So, according to the Stress No More website, the sea sponge is “harvested by divers straight from the Caribbean ocean, with the utmost respect for marine resources. Sea sponge lives on the ocean floor, it’s not coral or a plant; it is in fact an animal that has no brain or central nervous system.”
Wait, what?? Oh, now I feel a bit more icky that I have an animal up my flue.
“This renewable natural resource has the powerful ability to re-grow parts of the sponge that has been broken off by water currents, the divers cut them at the base so the sponge remains intact, ensuring that the sponge still has the ability to re-grow and reproduce over and over again.”
“No one ever really talks about the damage that traditional, disposable sanitary products have on our bodies and the environment. Tampons and sanitary pads are pumped with fragrances, dioxins and are usually made with non-organic cotton or rayon.”
Not to mention the waste that goes into landfill and into the sewage system, so the sea sponge really is a renewable and eco-friendly option. I recently tried the Tampax Pearl tampons and I couldn’t believe the amount of packaging and waste produced, each tampon applicator is made of plastic that goes into landfill because I couldn’t bring myself to put it in our plastic recycling pile.
The box arrived and had two sea sponges inside, there was minimal instructions, it just said to wash or sterilise before use but little else. To be honest, the packaging and instructions are pretty odd. There is no mention of menstruation, periods, blood or anything about my vag-j-j.
“Intimate sponges” they call them, “smooth and delicate”, “natural, absorbent and easy to clean, for internal or external use”.
I had to go to check the site to make sure I had the right product! This kind of annoyed me, if I am using an alternative menstrual product, let’s be proud of it and shout it from the rooftops! SPONGEBOB IS GOING TO BE MY TAMPON!!!!!!! (Well, he does live in Bikini Bottom)
And so to the website directions.
“When washing and soaking your sponge, be sure to use natural soap that is chemical free; this will make sure that your sea sponges stay clean and are always safe to use. Using soaps that have fragrances and chemicals can cause you irritation when in use.
Soak your sea sponge on a cup of warm water between 5 – 10 minutes with either of the recommended:
- 1 tbsp of vinegar
- 2 – 3 drops of tea tree oil
After the soak, rinse thoroughly and squish out any water that is left inside.
Please do not:
- Boil the sea sponges – this can toughen and shrink them
- Soak your sea sponge any longer than the advised time – excessive soaking can make the sponge deteriorate
- Avoid using any harsh chemicals or soaps! This will be bad for your body and your sponge”
So after soaking and washing out, I used the sea sponge for the first time, once washed it becomes very, very soft and pliable and so I dried it out by squeezing it, rolled it into a cigar shape and pushed it in. I was a bit concerned it would feel dry and horrible going in, but really it was quite smooth and easy.
Once in, I couldn’t feel it AT ALL. Nothing.
The sponges are quite big, but once rolled and squished, they mould to whatever shape you put them in and so it stays quite compact in the vagina. The site says you can trim it down, but I didn’t need to as, like I said, you roll it and squish it small anyway.
So my mermaid tampon was in and if I’m honest, I didn’t trust it. I headed to bed with a towel to lay on incase of leaks and feeling pretty nervous. But I had no leaks at all, it was brilliant!
Since I’ve had so much surgery in that area, I can no longer use a moon cup as I can feel it inside and it is quite uncomfortable and so I have been back to using tampons and towels, I mention both because I usually leak with a tampon only. This makes periods a pretty crappy time for me, I have a very heavy flow and spend one week a month waddling round, buckles and braces, with a tampon and a big pad feeling like Carrie.
This also costs a lot of money. I go through around 5-6 tampons a day with 5-6 pads too, equally around £6 or £7 a month. Is it breaking the bank? No, but it does gall me to be spending money on something that makes me feel crap. So I decided to try the alternatives.
The Caribbean Silk Sponges are £9.95 + £3.95 delivery, they are said to last at least 3-6 months and you get two in a pack, therefore my annual menstrual costs would go from around £84 a year to just £13.90 saving me over £70 a year!
Anyway, there were no leaks on night one, and in fact, I haven’t had one leak for my whole period. It was extremely comfortable, I genuinely couldn’t feel a thing, so much so that I forgot I had it in a couple of times, it went a good 8 hours overnight without me having to get up.
This could be a coincidence, but my usually terrible period pains were almost non-existent this month. Could it be that my body wasn’t having to react to having big wads of cotton inside me? Who knows?
Back to actual usage, so it was easy to insert, super comfortable to wear and then it comes to removal. I had read a review that said it could be really tricky, some people use a piece of dental floss tied around it to remove but that it could tear the sponge in half. There is no getting around this, you have to be comfortable with your body and your blood to use the sea sponge.
I found it really quick and easy to remove, it is a little weird as the wet sponge does feel like flesh inside so it takes a second to figure out which bit is which, but once I caught feel of it, I bared down slightly and just pulled it out. Very simple and clean, yes you get your fingers slightly bloody, but barely worse than grabbing a bloody tampon string or disposing of a pad filled with blood and certainly no different to removing a moon cup.
I think it is the next bit that will get people. You have to squeeze out and rinse the sponge under the tap before reinserting it. Yes, you do get some blood on your hand but it is under running water and so it isn’t anywhere near as bad as you would think. Also because it is fresh blood, it has very little smell, I would say it is unnoticeable, unlike a sanitary towel where the blood is old and has been sat in the pad, the sea sponge felt very clean.
You wouldn’t be able to change it like this in a normal public toilet, a sink and running water is absolutely necessary, but you do get two and they come in a little sealed baggie, so you could take one out, put it in the sealed bag and then use the other and deal with it at home. I work from home and so this hasn’t been an issue. I also find they don’t need changing often and so you could go a good few hours without needing to change.
People find reusable menstrual products a bit gross, they say that they don’t want to have to be touching they blood, but I just find this argument so weird! Sanitary towels sit in your pants filled with your blood, you then have to take them out, wrap them up and put them in a bin. Tampons need removing and inserting. You have to wash your vagina during your periods, so reusable products aren’t any more faff than the usual two, we have just been taught that tampons and pads are the norm.
If more options were taught in schools to our children, then future generations would know they had a choice in their menstruation. My friend Chella Quint runs a project called Period Positive, I strongly recommend you go take a look at her site and learn more about the way we teach society that periods are dirty, embarrassing and a taboo subject.
My verdict? I have to say, I am really surprised! I thought I would give it a go and perhaps it could be a back up plan for if I really can’t get on with my moon cup or when I just can’t bare the tampons and pads any more. But it has been a really eye opener! No leaks, no discomfort, no waste (they are biodegradable and can be put in the compost at the end of their life), sea sponge tampons are a real and genuine option for women who want a choice when it comes to the products they use during shark week.
If your current menstrual products aren’t working for you, then give it a go, you might just be surprised by the results.
Now, whoooooooooooo lives in a pineapple under the sea?!!!
To buy your own sea sponges, head over to Stress No More. I haven’t been paid for this review but I was sent the products free of charge, I don’t earn anything from affiliate links here either, I just genuinely liked the mermaid tampons (fingers crossed someone rebrands these with the name and a mermaid splashing up on the rocks with a red sea behind her…)